Atmospheric Emissions

Yan Zhang, Xin Bo, Yu Zhao, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2019. “Benefits of current and future policies on emissions of China's coal-fired power sector indicated by continuous emission monitoring.” Environmental Pollution, 251, Pp. 415-424. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Emission inventories are critical to understanding the sources of air pollutants, but have high uncertainties in China due in part to insufficient on-site measurements. In this study, we developed a method of examining, screening and applying online data from the country's improving continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) to reevaluate a “bottom-up” emission inventory of China's coal-fired power sector. The benefits of China's current national emission standards and ultra-low emission policy for the sector were quantified assuming their full implementation. The derived national average emission factors of SO2, NOx and particulate matter (PM) were 1.00, 1.00 and 0.25 kg/t-coal respectively for 2015 based on CEMS data, smaller than those of previous studies that may not fully recognize improved emission controls in recent years. The annual emissions of SO2, NOx and PM from the sector were recalculated at 1321, 1430 and 334 Gg respectively, 75%, 63% and 76% smaller than our estimates based on a previous approach without the benefit of CEMS data. The results imply that online measurement with proper data screening can better track the recent progress of emission controls. The emission intensity (the ratio of emissions to economic output) of Northwest China was larger than that of other regions, attributed mainly to its less intensive economy and industry. Transmission of electricity to more-developed eastern provinces raised the energy consumption and emissions of less-developed regions. Judged by 95 percentiles of flue-gas concentrations measured by CEMS, most power plants met the current national emission standards in 2015 except for those in Northwest and Northeast China, while plants that met the ultra-low emission policy were much scarcer. National SO2, NOx and PM emissions would further decline by 68%, 55% and 81% respectively if the ultra-low emission policy can be strictly implemented, implying the great potential of the policy for emission abatement.
2019 Mar 07

China and Asia in a Changing Climate: Natural Science for the Non-Scientist

12:15pm to 1:45pm


CGIS South S020, Belfer Case Study Room, 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA


  • Professor John Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University; Co-Director of Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, HKS; former Science Advisor to President Barack Obama and former Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Professor Peter Huybers, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Professor Elsie SunderlandGordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Professor Steve Wofsy, Abbott Lawrence Rotch Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Science, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Chair: Professor Mike McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Chair, Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy and Environment... Read more about China and Asia in a Changing Climate: Natural Science for the Non-Scientist

Peng Jiang, Hongyan Liu, Shilong Piao, Philippe Ciais, Xiuchen Wu, Yi Yin, and Hongya Wang. 2019. “Enhanced growth after extreme wetness compensates for post-drought carbon loss in dry forests.” Nature Communications, 10, 195. Publisher's VersionAbstract
While many studies have reported that drought events have substantial negative legacy effects on forest growth, it remains unclear whether wetness events conversely have positive growth legacy effects. Here, we report pervasive and substantial growth enhancement after extreme wetness by examining tree radial growth at 1929 forest sites, satellite-derived vegetation greenness, and land surface model simulations. Enhanced growth after extreme wetness lasts for 1 to 5 years and compensates for 93 ± 8% of the growth deficit after extreme drought across global water-limited regions. Remarkable wetness-enhanced growths are observed in dry forests and gymnosperms, whereas the enhanced growths after extreme wetness are much smaller in wet forests and angiosperms. Limited or no enhanced growths are simulated by the land surface models after extreme wetness. These findings provide new evidence for improving climate-vegetation models to include the legacy effects of both drought and wet climate extremes.
Meng Gao, Yihui Ding, Shaojie Song, Xiao Lu, Xinyu Chen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2018. “Secular decrease of wind power potential in India associated with warming Indian Ocean.” Science Advances, 4, 12, Pp. eaat5256. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Indian government has set an ambitious target for future renewable power generation, including 60 GW of cumulative wind power capacity by 2022. However, the benefits of these substantial investments are vulnerable to the changing climate. On the basis of hourly wind data from an assimilated meteorology reanalysis dataset covering the 1980–2016 period, we show that wind power potential may have declined secularly over this interval, particularly in western India. Surface temperature data confirm that significant warming occurred in the Indian Ocean over the study period, leading to modulation of high pressure over the ocean. A multivariable linear regression model incorporating the pressure gradient between the Indian Ocean and the Indian subcontinent can account for the interannual variability of wind power. A series of numerical sensitivity experiments confirm that warming in the Indian Ocean contributes to subsidence and dampening of upward motion over the Indian continent, resulting potentially in weakening of the monsoonal circulation and wind speeds over India.
Meng Gao, Gufran Beig, Shaojie Song, Hongliang Zhang, Jianlin Hu, Qi Ying, Fengchao Liang, Yang Liu, Haikun Wang, Xiao Lu, Tong Zhu, Gregory Carmichael, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2018. “The Impact of Power Generation Emissions on Ambient PM2.5 Pollution and Human Health in China and India.” Environment International, 121, Part 1, Pp. 250-259. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Emissions from power plants in China and India contain a myriad of fine particulate matter (PM2.5, PM≤2.5 micrometers in diameter) precursors, posing significant health risks among large, densely settled populations. Studies isolating the contributions of various source classes and geographic regions are limited in China and India, but such information could be helpful for policy makers attempting to identify efficient mitigation strategies. We quantified the impact of power generation emissions on annual mean PM2.5 concentrations using the state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry model WRF-Chem (Weather Research Forecasting model coupled with Chemistry) in China and India. Evaluations using nationwide surface measurements show the model performs reasonably well. We calculated province-specific annual changes in mortality and life expectancy due to power generation emissions generated PM2.5 using the Integrated Exposure Response (IER) model, recently updated IER parameters from Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2015, population data, and the World Health Organization (WHO) life tables for China and India. We estimate that 15 million (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 10 to 21 million) years of life lost can be avoided in China each year and 11 million (95% CI: 7 to 15 million) in India by eliminating power generation emissions. Priorities in upgrading existing power generating technologies should be given to Shandong, Henan, and Sichuan provinces in China, and Uttar Pradesh state in India due to their dominant contributions to the current health risks.


Qing Yang, Hewen Zhou, Xiaoyan Zhang, Chris P. Nielsen, Jiashuo Li, Xi Lu, Haiping Yang, and Hanping Chen. 2018. “Hybrid life-cycle assessment for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of a typical biomass gasification power plant in China.” Journal of Cleaner Production, 205, Pp. 661-671. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Among biomass energy technologies which are treated as the promising way to mitigate critical energy crisis and global climate change, biomass gasification plays a key role given to its gaseous fuels especially syngas for distributed power plant. However, a system analysis for the energy saving and greenhouse gas emissions abatement potentials of gasification system has been directed few attentions. This study presents a system analysis that combines process and input-output analyses of GHG emissions and energy costs throughout the full chain of activities associated with biomass gasification. Incorporating agricultural production, industrial process and wastewater treatment which is always ignored, the energy inputs in life cycle are accounted for the first commercial biomass gasification power plant in China. Results show that the non-renewable energy cost and GHG emission intensity of the biomass gasification system are 0.163 MJ/MJ and 0.137 kg CO2-eq/MJ respectively, which reaffirm its advantages over coal-fired power plants in clean energy and environmental terms. Compared with other biomass energy processes, gasification performs well as its non-renewable energy cost and CO2 intensity are in the central ranges of those for all of these technologies. Construction of the plant is an important factor in the process’s non-renewable energy consumption, contributing about 44.48% of total energy use. Wastewater treatment is the main contributor to GHG emissions. The biomass gasification and associated wastewater treatment technologies have critical influence on the sustainability and renewability of biomass gasification. The results provide comprehensive analysis for biomass gasification performance and technology improvement potential in regulating biomass development policies for aiming to achieve sustainability globally.